Is there any way to keep messaging services (IM - Pidgin, mail client - Thunderbird) running "on background"? I want to have them waiting for incoming messages but they disturb me when switching between applications using alt-tab. Anyway, I access those programs by clicking on the envelope indicatior in the toolbar so I don't need to see them in the list of running apps. My desire is the behavior just like with Banshee or Empathy.

I don't want the solutions like AllTray since the applications already have their "tray" in the envelope applet.

EDIT: I have realized Pigin behaves like this. I don't know if it did before but now it's okay. So just Thunderbird now...

  • 6
    +1 I'd like to see this too, especially an option to have them start at boot and always be running, grabbing emails and notifications like a smartphone does. I don't want a separate 'helper' application running. Oct 18, 2011 at 19:33

3 Answers 3


EDIT 3: Thanks to @Mik and @Karthik How to emulate pressing the Close button from a script? we now have the best solution so far!!

You will need to install a Thunderbird extension:

  • MinimizedToTray revived (MinTrayR) 1.1.2
    • To make Thunderbird minimize on messenger indicator on close and minimize go to addon's "Preferences" and check "Instead of closing and when minimizing"

You also need to install "xdotool" to properly run the script below:

  • sudo apt-get install xdotool

To make Thunderbird start on system login and immediately minimize create the script below:

  1. Create an "Empty Document" in your Documents directory, name it "thunderbird_start.sh".
  2. Copy in it the following lines:
        #wait for internet connection up to 15 seconds
        CONNECTED=$(ping -w5 -c1 $host > /dev/null 2>&1 && echo "up" || echo "down")
        while [ "$CONNECTED" = "down" ] && [ $STOPWATCH -lt 15 ]; do
            sleep 1;
            CONNECTED=$(ping -w5 -c1 $host > /dev/null 2>&1 && echo "up" || echo "down")
            let STOPWATCH++
        #run Thunderbird
        thunderbird &
        #Search for Thunderbird window
        TB=$(xdotool search --class thunderbird)
        while [ -z "$TB" ]; do
            sleep 10 #Adjust this to your system needs
            TB=$(xdotool search --class thunderbird)
        #dispose Thunderbird window
        xdotool search --class thunderbird windowunmap %@
    *I'm not very experienced in shell scripting so if there is any better implementation please let me know!
  3. Open "Startup Applications" and "Add" a new startup program.
  4. In the name field, give a name of your choice
  5. In the command field add the following line:
        bash /home/your-name/Documents/thunderbird_start.sh
    *maybe you could also use "~/" to get your home directory, but I'm not sure if is gonna work, you can try it: sh ~/Documents/thunderbird_start.sh

EDIT: MinimizedToTray officially does not support Unity so It breaks the global menu bar after restoring thunderbird. A work around is to disable global menu extension, till a fix release, or use HUD (ubuntu 12.04) to access thunberbird's options.

EDIT 2: I can confirm Karthik's comment, "MinimizedToTray revived 1.1.2" no more breaks Unity's global menu bar! Great thanks to Nils Maier...

EDIT 4: I've changed a bit the script code. I've added some lines to check for Internet connection so that sleep 10 is not needed any more...
ATTENTION in the 5th step sh was replaced with bash

EDIT 5: There is still a sleep 10 command in the script. You should adjust the sleep time according to your system's speed. For example in my laptop I have an SSD, so Thunderbird opens fast, sleep 2 works perfect. In my desktop PC I had to add 10 seconds of sleep to make it work properly... I have already issued an other question to overcome this limitation!

  • This worked best for me as well, I wouldn't have recommended this before Precise, but now with the HUD for the menu, it's very doable, just press Alt when you want to access the menu, and start typing.
    – KoRnKloWn
    May 18, 2012 at 19:51
  • +1 for a very useful answer. The Global Menu Bar works fine after installing the addon. Guess they have updated it.
    – Hashken
    Dec 12, 2012 at 13:37
  • Why do you want to give sleep 10? Why can't we directly give thunderbird
    – Hashken
    Dec 12, 2012 at 14:57
  • Selecting Minimize on start in the Minimize On Start and Close 1.3.2 addon causes problems when Thunderbird is accessed from the Messaging menu. For an alternative solution please refer to askubuntu.com/questions/228312/…
    – Hashken
    Dec 12, 2012 at 17:15
  • I've added sleep 10 to give time to my wireless network card to connect to the network. Thunderbird tries to connect to the internet immediately after starting and if not succeeds throws errors...
    – naskoos
    Dec 31, 2012 at 13:03

There is a very simple solution for that: You can configure Compiz to skip the taskbar and the pager for specified Applications. To do so with Thunderbird you have to perform following steps:

  1. Go to Softwarecenter and install CompizConfig or use following command:

    sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

  2. Open CompizConfig-Setting-manager using the Dash or performing this command:


  3. Click on the left sidebar on »Windowmanager« CompizConfig-Setting-Manager

  4. Now you can specify windows you don't like appearing in taskbar and the pager: For Thunderbird you type in the filed »Skip Taskbar« and »Skip Pager« the following:

    class=Thunderbird Typing the same in the filed »not closable« you should have exactly the behaviour you want.

Skip pager and taskbar for Thunderbird

  • @15533 How to the same multiple applications(for exp: thunderbird & gtg)?I tried class=Thunderbird,class=Gtg, but that didn't work. Aug 23, 2012 at 10:30
  • 1
    You must use: "(class=Thunderbird) | (class=Gtg)"
    – user5950
    Aug 23, 2012 at 12:30
  • 1
    This solution really works, whereas the Firetray / MinimizetoTray is broken depending on Ubuntu version (neither works on mine 12.04).
    – Heisenberg
    Oct 19, 2013 at 0:05
  • To get access to the Window Rules options, I had to install compiz-plugins as well
    – fkoessler
    Jan 9, 2015 at 9:30

See this: http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/idea/28707/ - a suggestion to add this feature to thunderbird.

MinimizeToTray revived and Firetray don't work satisfactorily for me. With one of these extensions running, when I first launch evolution 3 or 4 windows open. Additionally after closing evolution to the messaging menu several times, when I re-open evolution the global menu is lost.

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